Why Manchester is the new creative epicentre of neo-soul and hip-hop
Rap music has always had its oddballs, even at the uppermost levels of stardom, but in recent years, rappers and producers have really taken the hip hop template and stretched it beyond recognition (we recently highlighted ten groundbreaking productions from the last 12 months). The free download mixtape has afforded those producers and rappers operating on the fringes the freedom to have their music heard far and wide without any constraints on their ideas, and collaborations can happen between a rapper and producer who have never been on the same continent together, let alone in the same studio.
One such example is Bay Area rapper ISSUE, a character that is decidedly non-conformist when it comes to many of the attitudes encountered in rap today. He’s young (a recent interview with Red Bull Music Academy placed him at 17) and has no interest in any of the vices that many of his Bay Area compatriots do – his obsessions are European sports cars, and tea, with Earl Grey being his preference. ISSUE’s past collaborators include Haleek Maul, Das Racist and MURS, but what’s most bizarre about the whole story is that ISSUE is the son of Bay Area legend E-40 and, by extension, the brother of Droop-E. Whilst rap music may run in the family, listening to ISSUE makes you wonder what went on down the line.
Collaborating over fibre optics, ISSUE has teamed up with Manchester-based producer Big War, a member of the Generic Greeting collective, to release a hazy, psychedelic mixtape called ‘Aura’. You can find more information about the collaboration and download it on AO-AO, and read a Q&A with both rapper and producer below.
Hi, ISSUE and Big War! Could you introduce yourself to Dummy readers?
ISSUE: “My name is ISSUE, also known as the ultimate teaholic, also known as the Lamborghini Owner.”
Big War: “Hi. I’m a producer and DJ from Manchester. I’ve been making music for about 5 years but it’s only recently that I’ve started making tracks that I wanted people outside of my friends to hear.”
How would you describe your music to new listeners?
ISSUE: “A collection of cold beats and hot rhymes. I don’t actually know, it’s really for open-minded people that love different music.”
Big War: “It’s pretty challenging music. I think of my music as hip hop but I’m well aware that 99% of people who listen to rap music would scoff at that. I try to make as much of myself come through the music as possible which is why I tend to utilise unusual song structures and samples.”
How did you first get into making music?
ISSUE: “Brother Droop-E taught me all to know about music at the age of 11.”
Big War: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making music. I’m really interested in technology and so as soon as I started messing around on drum machines on my computer when I was around 15 I knew that the combination of the two was the best fit for me.”
There is obviously a big continental gap between you and Big War. How did you end up working together?
ISSUE: “I found Big War by searching my name on Twitter. I liked his productions a lot and wanted to work with him.”
Big War: “I heard ISSUE’s tape ‘PIG’ about a year ago and was instantly blown away by it. I ended up making a beat out of some samples from that tape but I wanted to make it clear that it was based around samples from someone else so I just called it ISSUE. I think ISSUE found the track from a tweet from Generic Greeting and hit me up saying he liked it which came as a big shock. We kept in touch and over time I realised that ISSUE is probably the only rapper open minded enough to get on the kind of music I was making at the time. I sent him some beats and he laid down some genius on them and so we felt it was only right we did lengthier release.”
What attracted you to his music?
ISSUE: “He reminded me of a modern Pink Floyd/Kraftwerk.”
Big War: “One of the main reasons I like ISSUE’s music is that he is 100% himself. He writes about what he wants to write about and not what he thinks will make him successful or what’s cool at the moment. This coupled with the fact that it sounds incredible and he’s extremely inventive and experimental with both his production and his vocals meant that he was number 1 on my list of people I wanted to collaborate with.”
What’s coming up next for you?
ISSUE: “A project with Southern Hospility, a project with Vice Cooler, a project with L.Rey (O’Grime), a project with Lofty305 (Metro Zu) and then Moonroof Part 3.”
Big War: “I’m working on another collaboration with my friend Sing at the moment, he made the beat with me for I’m I’ll and we were really happy with how it sounded so we’re gonna do a full EP. I’m also working on a few tracks with No Arms and FREnchfire of the Generic Greeting collective. As well as this i’m also working on a piece of music for an installation which is very exciting. ISSUE and I are planning some more projects too although I don’t want to go into that too much.”
Which tea is currently floating your boat?
ISSUE: “Earl Gray Tea of course, it’s amazing. I put a little milk in it and honey and it’s heaven in a cup.”
Big War: “I love all teas and they all have their own place but Pukka Herb’s Three Mint Tea is probably my favourite at the moment.”